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  Archived Posts From: 2011


Holly Jolly Christmas

Written on: December 13th, 2011 in Research Room

Holly Factory in Milford

It’s mentioned in songs and it’s image covers wrapping paper and greeting cards. Wreaths are adorned with it and mantles are decked with it. It keeps company with mistletoe. It’s the state tree of Delaware and one of the most recognizable images of the holiday season.

The American holly became the state tree of Delaware by an act of the General Assembly on May 1, 1939. Governor Richard C. McMullen signed the act recognizing the booming export market for this cheap and readily available, native tree.

But why holly? The story of this celebrated holiday icon starts much earlier than this.

Ancient religions believed that the mighty holly kept bad spirits at bay and, thus, holly became a symbol of goodwill. This belief carried on and became associated with modern winter celebrations. The abundance
of American holly in Delaware in the early 20th century made southern Delaware the epicenter for the holly industry.  By 1930, Delaware had become the leading producer of holly wreaths. Families capitalized on this cottage industry, often adding $100-$500 to their yearly earnings by producing fresh wreaths and sprays from Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas. These wreaths were marketed all
over the country as coming “From the Land of Holly.”

Beyond its aesthetic value, holly is a vital part of the Delaware eco system. It’s important to know that while generally toxic to humans, the holly tree offers important nutrition and shelter to birds and other wildlife
throughout the winter.

Today, holly is an unmistakable image of the holiday season and like many pieces of American history, Delaware had a hand in it.

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Celebrate Delaware Day!

Written on: December 7th, 2011 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

 In recognition of Delaware Day, December 7, being the day that Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, the Delaware Public Archives has recently created a shadow box exhibit that celebrates the story of Delaware’s role as the First State to ratify the United States Constitution. This exhibit features facsimiles of original documents drawn from the collections of the Delaware Public Archives and will only be displayed for a limited time.  These documents, along with the pictures and other Archives resources featured in the shadow box exhibit, describe the state’s role in the ratification process, and the interests and activities of Delawareans during this watershed period in our country’s history. The centerpiece of the Archives’ celebration is Delaware’s Ratification Document. Signed by the thirty delegates on December 7, 1787, this document bears historic witness to Delaware’s role as the first state to approve our nation’s new frame of government.  As noted by State Archivist Stephen Marz, “this display truly shows Delaware at a time when it was a leader in determining the type of government that would be implemented at the national level.” To view documents online related to Delaware being the First State check the webpage

            To honor this special day in Delaware history, Governor Markell came to the Delaware Public Archives for a ceremony in which he read the official proclamation of Delaware Day and honored Dr. Carol E. Hoffecker as the recipient of the 2011 Governor’s Heritage Award.  Congratulations, Carol!


Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of State Jeff Bullock stand with Dr. Carol Hoffecker as she displays her award.

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The Whipping Post

Written on: December 2nd, 2011 in Research Room

One of the great features about the program we use for our blog is that it lets us see what search terms people are using.  Recently a lot of you have been searching for “the whipping post” so I thought I’d write about it.

There were three whipping posts: one in each county. The Kent County whipping post was located at the east side of the Old State House on the Dover Green, and was relocated to the Morris Correctional Facility in the 1930’s. The one in New Castle was located at the New Castle County Jail then moved to the New Castle County Workhouse. And the one in Sussex County was in Georgetown at the Jail. The last whipping occurred in 1952. Delaware was the last state to abolish the whipping post when it was removed from the Delaware Code in 1972.

Crimes punishable with whipping included breaking and entering, larceny, arson, and wife beating. The number of lashes ranged between 10 to 60 and depended on the era.

We have photographs, newspaper clippings, governor’s files, a general reference file and even a lesson plan regarding the whipping post. Robert Graham Caldwell wrote a book about Delaware’s whipping post called Red Hannah Delaware’s Whipping Post

Why not stop by and see for yourself.

New Castle County Whipping Post at the New Castle County WorkhouseKent County Whipping Post at the Kent County JailSussex County Whipping Post in Georgetown



Bring Something New To The Table This Holiday

Written on: November 22nd, 2011 in Research Room

Thanksgiving Dinner at the New Castle County Army Air Base

With the holidays fast approaching, we’re all thinking about perfecting our holiday meal menus or securing the perfect gifts for our nearest and dearest. Visiting with family is an often refreshing and sometimes frustrating part of the season.  I don’t know about your family, but when we get together family histories usually come up. These stories are great but after years and years (and years and years and years) of retelling, I wonder if these stories are true. Oral histories are sort of like a playing the telephone game; the story you start out with might not be the story told 50 years later. Did great grandfather what’s-his-name really throw dollar bills off the top of his car dealership? Was our family actually part of the French Revolution?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want the real story. Here’s an idea: take this opportunity to set the record straight and tell your relatives something they might not know about your family. The holidays are a perfect time to get to the roots of your family tree and it’s easier than you might think.

Here at the Delaware Public Archives we have many resources for genealogical research useful to native and non-native Delawareans alike. Take a spin through our vital statistics index which lists the births, deaths and marriages of Delawareans. Or, hop on a computer and checkout –use it for free only at the Archives.

While everyone else is looking forward to the New Year, take a look back at your family’s history. Get started HERE.



Delaware Public Archives Launches Searchable Finding Aids Tool

Written on: November 9th, 2011 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryInside the DPAResearch Room

There’s a new tool now available for online patrons to search the records of the Delaware Public Archives. Known as the Collection Gateway, this new feature searches the databases of nineteen different collections in the Archives. The Collection Gateway will open a treasure trove of information for historians, genealogists, and all citizens who have an interest in finding Delaware information online.  Among the collections now searchable online are Church records, Orphans Court records, Newspapers, Maps, Coroners Reports, Probates Reports, and Apprentice Indentures. The complete list can be found at or on the Delaware Public Archives homepage at Along with having the ability to easily search through these records; users can also integrate what they find and share their discoveries using social media tools such as facebook, twitter and e-mail.

There are nearly half a million records currently available online and the Delaware Public Archives will continue to add databases to more collections. The Gateway will be updated on a quarterly basis.  To make these materials available online, Archives staff extracted pertinent elements from each document to make it easy to identify each record.  Because not all the information was extracted, the Gateway gives only a glimpse into the full record.  Once a detail page for the document has been reached, it will be possible to e-mail a request for the full record to the Delaware Public Archives.  With this request, the Archives staff can pull the record and send a reply with a link to to purchase a copy. To view the original record, it is strongly recommended that patrons visit the Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Center at the Delaware Public Archives.  Take some time to check out this exciting new feature!

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The Tragic Odyssey of Obie Evans and other African-Americans in Civil War Delaware

Written on: November 1st, 2011 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

Join us on Saturday, November 5, 10:30 a.m. as the Delaware Public Archives continues its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War with a program entitled “The Tragic Odyssey of Obie Evans and other African-Americans in Civil-War Delaware.”  Obie Evans escaped slavery, survived the Battle of the Crater, and participated in Baltimore’s post-war street riots–only to be murdered by other war veterans near Smyrna in 1866. His story reveals the triumphs and tragedies of African-Americans in Civil War Delaware.

            This will be the fourth in a series of four Civil War programs presented this year at the Archives by Dr. Steve Newton of Delaware State University.  Dr. Newton is the author of nine books and an Associate Editor of North & South magazine.  He has been a Professor of History and Political Science at Delaware State University since 1990.  Currently, he serves as the Acting Chairman of the History, Political Science, and Philosophy Department at the University. 

The program is free to the public.  No reservations are required.  For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail 

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I Just Didn’t Know!

Written on: October 26th, 2011 in Blog Posts

Over the next few weeks in celebration of Archives  month we will be hosting guest bloggers. They will share their point of view and stories from the archives.  Today’s blog is from Kathy Graybeal, Sussex County Librarian.

Library staffers hear the phrase all the time. “I just didn’t know that libraries did that!” Or “I never thought that libraries would do this sort of thing!” But the tables were turned on us at the 21st Annual Library Staff Development Day on October 20th. Participants in the “Gallop into History with the Delaware Public Archives” presentation were absolutely positive that they understood the organization inside and out. In reality, they had no clue. State Archivist, Steve Marz, Outreach Director, Tom Summers and Research Room Supervisor, Dawn Mitchell took library staff on a resource ride that was the talk of the conference. While we easily recognize the Archives role in documenting dramatic historical events, housing rare objects and discovering our ancestry, we often miss the major part they can play in questions of estate settlements, land disputes, legal precedence or simply noting the persons present in an old photograph. Our experience at Library Staff Development Day reminds us once more that “The American record has enduring value and America’s archives – in all their diversity of form and function – serve as its memory.” Plan a tour of our Delaware Public Archives today. You may well find that you just didn’t know!

Tom Summers, Steve Marz, and Dawn Mitchell at the Sussex County Librarian Staff Development Day



Written on: October 24th, 2011 in Blog Posts

Microfilm Camera 1950s

Over the next few weeks in celebration of Archives  month we will be hosting guest bloggers. They will share their point of view and stories from the archives.  Today’s blog is from Barbara Miller, Imaging Supervisor.

Microfilm you say? In the past paper records were put on microfilm for storage and preservation purposes. In the present, it is being used to digitize to make access to the record easier and quicker for the public to access. In the future, the born digital records are also being sent to an archive writer that is able to create a roll of film that enables the record to still be put on a permanent media. So like that old 57 Chevy that is sitting there collecting dust, it is still able to be restored and used to make people happy.


“Life Cycle” Changes in Government Services

Written on: October 21st, 2011 in Research Room

School Records Analyist D. Gail Ralph Reviews Fire Damaged Records

Over the next few weeks in celebration of Archives  month we will be hosting guest bloggers. They will share their point of view and stories from the archives.  Today’s blog is from Jim Frazier, Government Services Manager.

The times they are a-changin’ in the Government Services section. The retirement bug is on the loose and we bid farewell to Debbie Sipple, Donna Clendaniel, and will do the same for Marylisa Carey in January. We wish them all well and thank them for their many years of service, but the good news is we have added some stellar talent over the last year or so.

Marian Coker came to us from the Division of Public Health, where she was the Records Officer for 3+ years. At DPA, she assumes responsibility for client agencies DHSS, DSCYF, DelDOT, DNREC and a number of others.

More recently, we added Amber Clendaniel to our staff. Her background in records management includes Records Officer and other records responsibilities with the City of Dover. She will cover the courts and public safety agencies. Welcome, Amber!

Also now on board is Dan Evins, who came over from OMB/Support Services to shore up the Courier Group within Govt Services.

We have completely revised and updated our State General Records Retention Schedule and are in the process of doing the same for our Local Government schedule. The Model Guidelines for Electronic Records and our Files Management manual have updates pending as well.


The Power of Propaganda

Written on: October 17th, 2011 in Blog Posts

Over the next few weeks in celebration of Archives  month we will be hosting guest bloggers. They will share their point of view and stories from the archives.  Today’s blog is from Suzan Voshell, Administrative Assistant.

Uncle Sam World War II Poster

Among the vast collections housed at the Delaware Public Archives are the World War II propaganda posters.  These posters are a tangible and colorful reminder of an era that was experiencing much turmoil.    In a pre-computer world the government issued these posters in an effort to educate American citizens and inspire patriotism.  Stop in to view these gems from the past!